Only a very few of Emily Dickinson’s poems were published during her lifetime—without her permission and without her name. When she died, she left thousands of short lyric poems in manuscript form, many of them recopied into string-bound booklets she called “fascicles,” and hundreds of fragments scribbled on torn-open envelopes and other scraps of paper. But the collections published after her death were heavily edited, their punctuation “regularized” by editors Mabel Loomis Todd and T.R. Higginson, taking the reader to some distant remove away from the original poems. It was a gift to the world when her poems were published in an edition based on her manuscripts, with all their dashes and quirky spellings intact, in the mid-20th century. Now, in the 21st century, Emily Dickinson readers have received the greater gift of direct access to her poems in their original manuscript form, hand written by the poet herself and preserved in digital images on the Internet:
- Amherst College has digitized its entire collection of Emily’s manuscript poems and made it all available for free online viewing (just log in as a guest). What a treasure!
- The Emily Dickinson Archive is gathering digital images of Dickinson’s manuscripts from all the various library collections that have the paper in their collections, beginning with all the poems included in The Poems of Emily Dickinson: Variorum Edition, edited by R.W. Franklin and published by the Belknap Press at Harvard University in 1998.
- Emily’s late poems and fragments, scribbled on envelopes, have been assembled in a beautiful facsimile edition published in October 2013, The Gorgeous Nothings: Emily Dickinson’s Envelope Poems, edited by artist Jen Bervin and Dickinson scholar Marta L. Werner (New Directions/Christine Burgin).
More on Emily Dickinson:
Brief biographical profile of Emily Dickinson
Library: Poems by Dickinson
“Circling Back to Emily Dickinson” (July 2013)
“Emily Dickinson in Middle Age” (August 2012)
“Wearing Emily Dickinson, Wearing Her Words” (August 2011)
“The Scientist in Emily Dickinson” (September 2010)
“Emily Dickinson: Her Rhymes, Her Dashes, Her Flowers, Her Fits?” (July 2010)
“Emily’s Pearls Still Shine in the 21st Century” (June 2008)
“Poets Are Still Musing on Pictures of Miss Emily” (July 2005)
“What Would Emily Say? An Indeath Interview,” by Robyn Sue Millerz (February 2003)
“Emily Dickinson: Continuing Enigma,” by Jone Johnson Lewis